This site provides a selected Who’s Who of Australian Gunners of Renown. The project was initiated by Major General John Whitelaw (1921-2010) who enlisted the support of Alan Smith, a military historian, in 2003 to compile a list of about 100 gunners for inclusion in a biographical book. Each subject would have a one or two page biography. The biographies were largely completed and presented to the Royal Australian Artillery Historical Company (RAAHC) that decided to add the work to the website, rather than publish it as a book, so that it can be amended as new information comes to hand or new entries are approved.
The criterion Whitelaw and Smith adopted was that the subject had to have acted in ‘a manner that brought lustre to the already high reputation of the Regiment’. This included superior leadership, bravery under fire, superior management of the application of fire, high quality staff work, excellence as instructors, being the first or last to achieve some facet of history, dedicated service to the Regiment, or high achievement in services beyond the Regiment or the Army.
The criteria and choice of entries is necessarily subjective and is not meant to diminish the service and contribution of those not included.
The subjects included must be deceased and approved for inclusion by the RAAHC Historical Sub-Committee. The Sub-Committee welcomes corrections, additions and suggestions for improving the site and its content. Indeed, though incomplete, some entries have been included as research continues in the hope of obtaining additional information from readers.
Many entries draw heavily from the Australian Dictionary of Biography (ADB). Where this is the case entries provide a brief introduction to the subject and then provide a link to the relevant ADB website entry.
The first British defences of Australia came with the First Fleet in 1788. Among the 1000 people landed at Sydney Cove were 211 marines, including Lieutenant William Dawes. HMS Sirus, the flag ship of the fleet, also carried ten guns for the defence of the colony. These were soon brought ashore by Dawes and installed on the heads of Sydney Cove, firstly on Bennelong Point and later on Dawes Point to ward off any threat to the fledgling colony.
Since then, guns and the permanent, volunteer, and conscript gunners who served them have played a central role in the defence of Australia and its interests. It is therefore fitting that the Royal Australian Artillery Historical Company provide a representative sample of life stories of those who served the guns both in defence of Australia and in the various overseas campaigns in which Australians have fought.
Apart from brief introductions to each chapter, this site is not intended to provide a history of those campaigns or a history of the evolution of artillery technology, artillery units, forts or formations. There are many other references covering those topics but two are a good starting point: The Gunners by David Horner and Do Unto Others by Alan Smith.
Rather, the life experiences of the people commemorated here are an example of the spirit, dedication and professionalism of all ranks who have served the guns at home and abroad.
To assist readers interested in the official designation of gunner organisations the following chronology is provided.
The colonies, at various times henceforth, start to develop their own defence forces, including coast and field artillery.
||In July, Queen Victoria approved the permanent artilleries of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria forming colonial regiments of the Royal Australian Artillery.
||On Federation, control of the defence forces of the colonies passes to the Commonwealth.
||The Queensland, New South Wales and Victorian Regiments of Royal Australian Artillery and the permanent artillery of South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania are amalgamated to form the Royal Australian Artillery.
||The militia, partially-paid, and volunteer artillery of the six former colonies was reorganized as the Australian Field Artillery and the Australian Garrison Artillery.
The Australian Field Artillery (Permanent) was established.
||The RAA was retitled the Royal Australian Garrison Artillery (RAGA) and the Australian Field Artillery (Permanent) became the Royal Australian Field Artillery (RAFA).
||The RAGA and the RAFA were amalgamated as the RAA.
||The Militia components of the field and garrison branches are designated Royal Australian Artillery (Militia) – RAA(M) - and the Royal Australian Artillery was retitled Royal Australian Artillery Regiment.
||The Royal Australian Artillery Regiment and the Royal Australian Artillery (Militia) were amalgamated as the Royal Australian Artillery.
||The Regiment becomes The Royal Regiment of Australian Artillery, of which HM Queen Elizabeth II is the Captain General.
Branches (or functional categories) and Units
During the above changes of designation new branches of artillery were formed the main ones being survey companies formed in 1925, anti-aircraft in 1926, and anti-tank batteries/regiments in 1940 (this branch was transferred to the Royal Australian Armoured Corps in 1952). The last coast artillery units were disbanded or re-roled by 1963.
Several other branches were formed and folded into other branches over time or changed designations and within these branches a vast array of units with varying and evolving roles appeared and vanished. Some of these units are listed below.
At various times the Field Branch included light, field, medium and heavy units armed with mortars, guns and howitzers – some self-propelled. It also included supporting units like specialist observation, counter bombardment, and locating units.
Coast or Garrison Branch included coast radar units, searchlight units, and water transport and shore defence sections.
Anti-Aircraft Branch has included small arms, guns, and missiles and supporting units like observation, searchlight and radar units.
Survey Branch has included artillery survey, flash spotting, sound ranging, meteorology, calibration, and locating radar units or functions.
In 2016 the branches of artillery were: Field Artillery, Surveillance and Target Acquisition, and Ground Based Air Defence.
The principal operational field unit of artillery is a regiment (known as a brigade until 1939) commanded by a lieutenant colonel. Regiments comprise three or more batteries each commanded by a major. Batteries have comprised four to eighteen guns at various times and can operate independently if required.
In the senior ranks if an appointment is prefaced by the word commander it describes a senior officer in a command appointment. For example, Commander, Royal Artillery in a division (CRA), or Commander Corps, Royal Artillery in a corps (CCRA) command the artillery of those formations.
Artillery advisers or staff officers are indicated by rank followed by Royal Artillery. For example, Brigadier, Royal Artillery (BRA).